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Diabetes mellitus in a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)


S HEMSLEYa, M GOVENDIRb, PJ CANFIELDa and JH CONNOLLYa

aDepartment of Veterinary Anatomy and Pathology B01, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006
bDepartment of Veterinary Clinical Sciences B10, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006

 

ABSTRACT

Objective   To describe a case of diabetes mellitus in a koala (Phascolarctos cinereus).
Design   A case report with controls.
Procedures   We describe clinical and laboratory findings in a 6-year-old, free-living, female koala presented with traumatic injury and subsequently found to have polydipsia, hyperglycaemia and glucosuria. Over a 5 week period, serum biochemical analyses, haematological examinations, urinalyses, measurement of serum insulin and fructosamine concentrations, necropsy, histopathological examination of a range of tissues and immunohistochemical examination of the pancreas for insulin-containing cells were done. For reference purposes, serum insulin and fructosamine concentrations were determined in four and two healthy koalas, respectively, and three healthy koalas’ pancreases were examined histologically and immunohistochemically.
Results   The koala had persistent hyperglycaemia, hyperlipidaemia, hyponatraemia, hypochloraemia and glucosuria. Serum insulin concentration of the diabetic koala was only marginally smaller than that of healthy koalas, but all concentrations were smaller than reference concentrations in dogs and people. Fructosamine concentration did not allow the diabetic koala to be distinguished from healthy koalas and concentrations of all koala analytes were greater than expected for healthy dogs and people. Histopathological examination revealed extensive degeneration of pancreatic islet cells and fatty infiltration of hepatocytes. Immunoperoxidase staining revealed decreased or absent insulin in theβ cells of the affected koala.
Conclusion   Clinical signs, clinicopathological results and histopathological changes were consistent with diabetes mellitus. The pathogenesis of the condition could not be determined but may have been related to the administration of a parenteral corticosteroid preparation, the stress of capture or tissue damage and inflammation.

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